Interpreting and translating guidelines

We are committed to ensuring that the Return to Work scheme is responsive to the rights and needs of our diverse population. We require that our staff, claims agents, providers and self-insured employers communicate with stakeholders using accredited interpreters or translators when required.

The role of the interpreter is to facilitate verbal communication between the parties involved. The interpreter is not responsible for conducting the interview, giving advice or acting as an advocate.

The role of the translator is to translate written text that you provide. It is not their responsibility to define terms, reformat material, provide examples or change any of the material to make it more suitable for translation.

Booking an interpreter

If an interpreter is required it is imperative to record this information on the client’s file including the correct language and also the dialect. This will alert future case managers or service providers to their needs and will help them organise an interpreter.

If the client refuses to use an onsite interpreter and you need an interpreter to communicate, you can use a telephone interpreter and advise the client that you cannot proceed without an interpreter.

If you are not sure what language or dialect the person speaks, ask the person. For example: the language, Chinese, as well as the dialect, Mandarin.

Remember to:

  • Inform the interpreting service whether a male or female interpreter is preferred (ask your client for their preference)
  • Give them your name, your phone number and the name of your organisation
  • Provide the exact time and location that you require the interpreter
  • Give general information to interpreters about the subject matter or nature of the assignment to help them prepare
  • Allow extra time for the interview, generally double the time required for a meeting without an interpreter
  • Use a speaker phone for telephone interpreting.

Face-to-face interview

  • Organise an area where you can talk to the client in private, through the interpreter.
  • Arrange optimum seating, that is in a triangle, circle, or as appropriate (the interpreter sitting offside and you facing the client).
  • When the interpreter arrives, let the interpreter introduce him/herself to you and the client. This is important – it removes barriers and helps build trust.
  • Introduce yourself to the client and give a clear explanation of the role of the interpreter, your role and the involvement of anyone else present.
  • Tell the client that what is discussed in the interview will remain confidential between you and the interpreter. This assurance is crucial.
  • During the interview, speak directly to the client: say "How can I help you?" not "Ask him/her how I can help him/her?"
  • Speak clearly and slowly, and avoid jargon. If you have to use jargon, explain it.
  • Keep exchanges short and allow the interpreter the time to complete the communication of each exchange.
  • If you have to explain something to the interpreter, explain to the client what you are about to do.

Phone interpreting

  • Introduce yourself and the interpreter to the client and describe the purpose of the interview.
  • Limit your communication to short sentences or phrases at a time.
  • Pause often to allow the interpreter to speak and expect the interpreter to interpret everything that you and your client say.
  • Keep in mind that telephone interpreters rely entirely on words for communication. They have no visual cues (such as body language, gestures, or expressions) to assist in the interpreting.
  • Clearly indicate the end of the session to the interpreter and the client.

Phone interpreting is not appropriate if:

  • the person requiring assistance in English is under emotional, mental or physical stress 
  • the interviews will be lengthy and/or complex
  • visual aids are needed
  • documents need to be referred to, or
  • the situation does not lend itself to telephone interpreting – for example, police, legal and medical circumstances.

Preparing information for translation

Things to remember:

  • Keep language simple and plain
  • Give clear explanation of key concepts and terminology
  • Use active rather than passive language
  • Keep sentences short
  • When possible use question and answer formats for presenting the information
  • The name of the organisation should not be translated. Instead you can add a brief description of what the organisation does
  • Be aware that some words do not have direct translations and should be defined e.g. ‘ergonomic assessment’.
  • Some people may have limited literacy in their own language. If this is the case it may be a good idea to use audio as the preferred method of communication
  • When first using acronyms or abbreviations, use the full name together with the acronym in brackets (e.g. occupational therapist (OT)
  • Include exact specifications when requesting translations e.g. font size and margin specifications. It’s a good idea to provide translators with a layout template for their reference.

Contacting someone who is deaf or has a hearing impairment

Some people who are deaf or have a hearing impairment may use a teletypewriter (TTY) or the National Relay Service (NRS) to communicate over the phone.

Others use their own voice with the assistance of a relay officer through the NRS ‘speak and listen’ service, and others may use a fax to communicate.

Document the preferred method of communication whether it is TTY services, fax or computer/modem or the NRS ‘speak and listen’ service.

The NRS can connect you with a TTY user. To have a call relayed via the NRS, contact NRS on 13 36 77. Have the area code ready and the number of the TTY user you wish to contact. Your call will then be relayed with the assistance of a relay officer.

Talk directly to the TTY user as usual. The relay officer will do the rest. Just say ‘go ahead’ when you have finished talking and want the TTY user to reply.

For clients who may have speech difficulties and who use the ‘speak and listen’ service call 1300 555 727. 

For more information about the NRS and the relay options provided by them:

Phone: 1800 555 660

TTY: 1800 555 630

SMS: 0416 001 350

Fax: 1800 555 690



More information

For information in community languages, correspondence phrases, bilingual providers or to receive a copy of the interpreter declaration form, please contact us on 13 18 55 or email